Muhammad Ali said, “Champions aren’t made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them – a desire, a dream, a vision.” This is especially true in the case of Carlos Yulo – the first Filipino and Southeast Asian world champion Gymnast.
2019 was a big and monumental year for the Gymnastics Association of the Philippines. When a young Carlos Yulo from Manila, then 19, took home the country’s first gold medal during the 49th World Artistic Gymnastics Championship in Stuggart, Germany.
The Filipino World champion’s win did not only bring pride to the country. It also positioned the Philippines to win multi-gold medals in the upcoming Tokyo Olympics – possibly ending our gold medal drought since our participation in the Olympic Games in 1924.
Carlos Yulo Harnessing talent at a young age
Yulo started training for Gymnastics since he was seven. Thanks to his grandfather, who took him to a training program in Rizal Memorial Complex, he proceeded to win his first gold medal, just a year after his initiation to the sport through the first Milo National Little Olympics in 2009. He then became a part of the National Capital Region’s team after training under the Philippine National Games.
Fast forward to 2016; he received a scholarship program to train under Japan Olympic Association. It only took him two years to get a podium finish in the World’s Championship by winning bronze in 2018. The following year, the young world champion cemented his name, and our country, in the world of Gymnastics. He tallied 15.3, the highest score in the competition – besting the podium finish regulars from Israel (15.2) and China (14.9).
Besides the gold medal, Yulo’s 2019 final round performance assured him of a spot to compete for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics. Since 1924, the gold medal has been elusive for the Philippines. Winning seven bronzes and three silvers, with Weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz winning the most recent silver medal during the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Together with Diaz for weightlifting, and the newly crowned US Women’s Open champion Yuka Saso for Golf, Yulo will be backed by the country that has been thirsty for a top podium finish in the Olympics.
They have to have the skill and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill.
When they hit the world stage on July 23, we’ll glue our eyes on these Olympians and 16 others. Just like that adage from The Greatest, may they become true depictions of it. A will stronger than all the muscles in the Olympics – only then, maybe, we’ll see our flag flashed behind the top podium.